I recently returned from a visit to Banff, Alberta where the mountain scenery was absolutely stunning. In and around the city, you come face-to-face with Cascade Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Rundle, Castle Mountain, Norquay, Tunnel and many more, and when the billowy clouds drift from peak to peak and the sunshine emphasizes the ragged, ancient rocks or pinpoints a snow patch on a mountain summit, the effect is nothing short of inspirational.
This may sound like a spiritual guide or a treatise on Zen meditation and perhaps, in a way, it is. We are all familiar with the expression, “Take time to smell the roses,” but it’s often relegated to sage advice that we give to someone else, rather than a meaningful reminder to the people who could really use the suggestion, meaning ourselves.
The expression means different things to different people, but for travel advisors, it’s a clarion call to action, to take time to appreciate what’s around us: fresh air, flowers, trees, birds, butterflies, blue skies, mountains, the sounds of a river, water lapping on the shore, and summer breezes.
And in our hectic lives, we all crave some quiet downtime. Mountains are really a symbol of how we need to chill out and relax, and of course, our clients have the same needs. Some relax by having a jam-packed itinerary of one exciting event after another, where exploration, adventure, activity and variety feeds their endorphins (those pleasure-producing hormones in the brain). A visit to Nepal or Tibet amidst the Himalayas, with visits to lakes and monasteries, trekking, attending festivals, eating a Yak burger and chatting with Tibetans can fulfill this type of relaxation.
On the other end of the scale, sitting on a yoga mat at sunset, on a cliff overlooking Copan Ruinas in Honduras, can be a mindful, memorable experience. And in both cases, you (and the client) are engaging with the outdoors and getting a glimpse of the other side of life that busy city-dwellers hardly ever get to see.
So, why do we gaze at mountains? Here are four reasons that may assist you in selling solace to those clients in your database who just need a break.
1. Connecting us
Mythology often relates mountains to the connection between the earth and the sky, where the top of the mountain represents the abode of the gods. Mountains such as Machu Picchu in Peru, Mt. Kailash in Nepal, and Mt. Fuji in Japan, are the source of creation stories often associated with the Bible and other religious treatises.
The opportunity to see the mountains, and in some cases, climb them (for example, you can climb Mt. Fuji, located about one hour west of Tokyo; and also, the small mountain Huayna Picchu, next to Machu Picchu), is not only relaxing and impressive but provides those “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” daydreams that we all love to envision. Selling “connections” is a way to enhance your relationship with clients. It portrays you as more of a wellness, spiritual and human-needs provider rather than just a “travel” advisor.
2. The allure of the snow-capped
In the middle of summer, a trip up the Jungfrau in Switzerland to the observation deck at 3454 meters above sea level — and above Europe — adds an element of excitement to a trip. You begin the journey wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and gradually put on more and more layers of clothing until your breath is frozen and the camera lens fogs up. But, still the photos are spectacular.
The idea of snow on a mountaintop almost always carries with it a feeling of adventure and escape. It’s proof that you are actually seeing a part of the world that you thought you’d never lay eyes on. And of course, you don’t have to go up the mountain to see the snow. You can be on a train ride through the Rocky Mountains, or an airplane over the Andes. A poster in your office or on your computer of a snow-capped peak is all that some clients need to say “hmmmm” and then re-think their travel plans.
3. The thrill and the satisfaction
Watching rock climbers ascend to dizzying heights with only their fingertips wedged into a crevice is attractive to some, foolish to others, and mind-blowing to many. In Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona, California (as well as British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick), rock climbers seek mountain summits for the challenge, the exercise, the skill, the conquest of fear, and the satisfaction.
For many travelers, the very idea of ascending heights is thrilling. Here, we are not talking about technical climbs, but more along the line of mountain trails, paths, cable cars, ski lifts, and souvenir shops and restaurants, where the reward for reaching the top is just as meaningful to them as it would be for a rock or mountain climber. It’s the accomplishment, the camaraderie, the vistas along the way, the photos at the summit and the idea of partaking and succeeding in an adventure. If you have clients who want to ascend to city observation towers, consider suggesting that they get out of the city and take a chair lift up a mountain for a real, fresh air view.
4. Dreams fulfilled
Nike’s marketing slogan turned “Nothing is impossible” on its head when it suggested that anyone could achieve the impossible with imagination, creativity and effort. And, it goes without saying that if Nike was in the travel business, they would have included “… through the assistance of your travel advisor” as part of the slogan.
Dream fulfillment has always been an accurate description of the important role that travel advisors play. You interview the client to find out what’s on their mind. You make suggestions based on your experience, your industry contacts and your research. And then, you value-add as you specifically tailor the trip to the client’s needs. The trend toward unplugged vacations, wellness holidays and adventure escapes, reflects the desire of travelers to experience the different, the unknown, the challenge, but also the restful, the peaceful, the calming and the solace. It all boils down to doing something outside of the regular routine and the yearning that the end result will be a treasured memory.
Gaze at a mountain, now and then, and get into the spirit that many of your clients want to achieve.